left Xtraordinary Living At Its Best: Funning!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

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Funning is what my 7-year old Vanessa calls having fun. For me, "funning" is one of the key ingredients in having an Xtraordinary life. However, I have found that if I set out to "just having fun" I usually don't. Fun is an outcome not an activity. How much fun I have is also tied to the choices I make. There are different kinds of fun. As you can see, fun is a very broad subject - one I plan on tackling often in this blog.

Today I'm focusing on two activities that are fun for me: listening to music & watching movies. I want to share two resources that have made a huge difference in how much I enjoy both. Both of these resources share several things in common. They are free, they offer significant value and they require you to invest some time to get the most of the experiences.

The first one is Movielens, a personalized movie concierge. It is offered by the University of Minnesota. It uses "collaborative filtering" technology to make recommendations of movies/videos that you might enjoy, and to help you avoid the ones that you won't. Based on the ratings on the movies you have seen MovieLens generates personalized predictions for movies you haven't seen yet. MovieLens, is also a unique research vehicle for dozens of undergraduates and graduate students researching various aspects of personalization and filtering technologies.

The second one is Pandora, a personalized music DJ that was created by the Music Genome Project. What is unique about Pandora is that it doesn't rely on the "collaborative filtering" technology that say iTunes or Amazon use to suggest songs that I might enjoy. Instead, they have a database of over 10,000 songs and they have de-constructed each "song's DNA" - ie. it's basic song structure, vocal harmony, tonality, etc. - so it can match my rated "song's DNA" and suggest songs with similar "DNA." What I'm doing with Pandora is creating my own personalized music station. The more it gets to know my tastes, the better the music it plays. It is free, easy to use, has no commercials and has more variety than I have ever encountered in any music station I have ever listened to.

With both services, the more I rate their recommendations, the better the accuracy. Since I started using the Movielens service about 5 years ago, their recommendations for me are extremely accurate. Thanks to the site, I can't remember the last time I watched something that I didn't enjoy. As far as Pandora goes, I have discovered a lot of new music that I would have never discovered otherwise.

So if you want to add some fun to your life I encourage you to give these services a try and let me know how they work for you.